Virginia forward Marc Iavaroni tossed in a six-foot turnaround jumper to provide the Cavaliers with a 59-57 victory over Wake Forest in the opender of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament today.
Iavaroni, who had been pressing so hard that Virginia coach Terry Holland took away his starting job for two games last month, was ready as the ACC journey opened as usual with wacky, controversial games.
Duke was within two points of cold-shooting Clemson until the final three minutes before the Tigers pulled out an 82-74 win in the second game today before 1,735 at Greensboro Coliseum.
Thus, Virginia and Clemson will meet in a 9 p.m. semifinal Friday night, following the 7 p.m. opener between regular-season champ North Carolina and the winner of tonight's Maryland-North Carolina State game.
Virginia did not play as well today as it did a year ago when the Cavaliers pulled the greatest series of upsets in tourney history by beating nationally ranked North Carolina on successive nights for the championship.
The Virginia offense failed to maintain a steady attack inside against Wake Forest, but the Cavalier defense clawed and scratched its way to victory.
Virginia's defense overcame Wake's four-corner stall as the Deacons tried to protect a five-point lead in the final three minutes.
Iavaroni, ill and injured much of the regular season, scored 21 points, grabbed nine rebounds and was primarily responsible for holding ACC player of the year Rod Griffin to nine shots and only 12 points.
As it did against Maryland Saturday, Virginia's helping-out, man-to-man defense gave Wake the perimeter shots. The inside players in Wake's double-post attack took only 15 of the Deacon's 51 shots.
When Virginia ran its offense and got the ball inside, the Cavaliers were unstoppable - a point proven by lavaroni's game-winning basket.
Holland called a time-out with 11 seconds left and instructed his team to set a double low-post offense with Iavaroni on the left side of the lane and Otis Fulton on the right.
Iavaroni in-bounded the ball to Fulton, who passed to Bobby Stokes, who was open at the foul line for a 1-footer.
"I was going to shoot, then I saw Marc break free from Griffin," said Stokes, "I knew he would get at least a foul."
"Stokes was wide open. I was getting ready to go and help out on him," said Griffin. "I took one step and by the time I got back to Iavaroni, all I could do was block out for the rebound."
Iavaroni jumped up and down for joy, ran to the defensive end of the court and was mobbed by his teammates. In their exultation, he was hit on his left elbow, which had stitches in it, and had to leave the game.
"That's about as good a shot as you're going to get," Iavaroni said. "The worst thing that can happen is that you miss, and it's overtime."
The Cavs still had to survive a scare when Jerry Schellenberg tried to draw a block foul on Ed Shetnick, whom Holland had put in to combat Frank Johnson's in-bounds pass. There was contact, with no foul was called by officials Hank Nichols or John Moreau.
"When somebody goes down, you always hold your breath," said Holland.
"It's a guts call; you hope for it and it wasn't called," said Carl Tacy, whose team lost its fourth straight game.
Billy Langloh, who made a big steal for Virginia near the end, said that one had to see the win over Maryland to believe how well Virginia was playing now after a 2-10 ACC, 10-16 overall season. That victory gave the Cavaliers a psychological edge, Holland admitted.
This year, Virginia's excellent play "Last year, we lost our last regular-season game. But last year we needed our teeth kicked in." [TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCE] started four weeks later and HOlland said today, "We can be much better than we are. I'd like to have two weeks more, and the only way we can do that is to win this tournament.
Meanwhile, Clemson coach Bill Foster figures his team should win the tournament "if we shoot well, not phenomenal, but just about 50 per cent. Today, the Tigers shot just 41.5 per cent and 7-foot-2 center Wayne (Tree) Rollings palyed just five minutes of the first half after getting three quick fouls.
Colon Abraham sank two free throws to give the Tigers a 72-68 edge with 2:26 to play and Clemson, whose probation makes it ineligible for NCAA tournament play, got as far as 10 points ahead at the end.
Jim Spanarkel and Mike Gminski, Duke's two best players, had excellent games. Spanarkel, a 6-5 sophomore, scored 23 points and had 11 rebounds. Gminski, the 6-11 freshman center who skipped his final year of high school, contributed 21 points, 16 rebounds and six blocked shots and two steals.